The Hateful Eight: Standard Version vs Roadshow Edition

Posted: January 13, 2016 in Action, Drama, Uncategorized, Western
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The Hateful EightQuentin Tarantino wants you to know that he has now directed eight feature films. “The Eighth Film by Quentin Tarantino,” appears in the opening credits of his latest work. His eighth film even has the word eight in the title. Short of pulling a Chad Johnson and changing his name to Ocho, there seems little else Tarantino can do to convey that (1) he has done seven films before The Hateful Eight, and (2) he attaches great importance to the number. To celebrate the accomplishment and further his self-sustaining image as a film buff extraordinaire, the director turned the premiere of The Hateful Eight into a week-long event by releasing a “Roadshow Edition” of the movie to be shown in 100 theaters before the wide release of the standard version.

The unique features of the Roadshow Edition were its presentation in the 70mm format, some additional footage, an overture at the beginning, an intermission midway through, and a special program with each ticket sold – unless the cinemas ran out which seemed a frequent occurrence from an informal survey. Tarantino’s intent was to make the watching of the film epic, even if the movie itself is not. Roadshow editions  were associated with spectacles of yesteryear like Ben Hur, The Robe, or Shoes of the Fisherman. Economics rather than aesthetics ultimately doomed them. Filming and projecting 70mm was decidedly more expensive than 35mm, and modern marketing techniques, primarily saturation television advertising, were deemed more reliable than word of mouth.

And while the Roadshow Edition of The Hateful Eight could be dismissed as a shallow marketing ploy, credit must be given to Tarantino for giving us an opportunity to celebrate moviegoing in this manner and salute a bygone cinematic tradition. For filmies in general and Tarantino fans in particular, there was never a doubt as to which version would be superior. If a theater was within range, it was the Roadshow Edition.

But is the Roadshow Edition, in fact, superior to the Standard Version? Tickets cost most – up to twice as much – and it was more time in the theater as well. One critic’s verdict after seeing both:

The Roadshow Edition was worth the extra time and money. But…

Skipping the “but” for now, the program is neat and the overture provides a chance for people to settle in, turn off their phones, unwrap the candy, and, in general, shut the hell up. The extra time necessitated by the overture and the intermission eliminated commercials and coming attractions at many screenings, which was a welcome relief from the usual white noise one suffers through in the course of the average multiplex visit. The intermission itself was welcome. Tarantino inserted a natural break into the screenplay, and the movie did not suffer from the discontinuity. Most significantly, the 70mm format produced gorgeous results. The higher resolution meant sharper images, heightened contrasts, and brighter colors.

The standard version offers the same movie, but not the same “film” if we are to invoke an often meaningless distinction that some critics choose to make. In this case, the same flaws are evident in either version. First and foremost, the movie is too long. There is insufficient action to justify either the 167-minute or 187-minute length. For a master wordsmith (yeah, two Best Screenplay Oscars make him that), Tarantino churned out a flabby, lazy, repetitive script. How far off his game is he here? Let’s just say that the first half of the movie comes off as if it were done by one of the legion of Tarantino wannabes – and not one of the better ones.

Compounding the mistake of length is an error of frequency: how often the N-word is invoked. Whether people used the word that frequently and fervently is not the point. Tarantino’s reliance on the slur comes off as immature and mean-spirited. It is not provocative; it is distracting. Just as he has apparently exorcised his need to show the female foot in every film, Tarantino should resolve to go N-word free in his next movie.

And now let’s return to the “But…” of four paragraphs ago.

Let’s say the Roadshow Edition was the better choice. Don’t beat yourself up if you missed it. Watching the standard version is close enough – and that’s the primary problem with it. Tarantino missed a great opportunity. The first two chapters of the film could be lopped off or reduced to a quick prologue that runs concurrent with the opening credits. That puts us right into the pressure cooker and skips 40 minutes of extraneous exposition, a good bit of which is repeated once all the characters are gathered under the same roof.

He could have offered a streamlined Standard Version of 127 minutes and then waited for the argument to rage about which version was better. And that, my friends, would have been one hellavu debate.

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